And Peter . . . Wept Bitterly
An Encouragement In Hard Times

By Ed Tarkowski

(John 21:15 KJV) So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

What is Jesus saying to Peter here?
What's the message?
What is Jesus getting at, the point He wants to make with Peter?

Jesus asks Peter three times: "Peter, do you love me?"
Three times Peter answers, "Yes, Lord."
And three times Jesus tells him, "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep, feed my sheep, Peter."

Peter confidently and a little perturbed is saying, "Of course I love you." I will feed your lambs and your sheep."

Maybe Peter thought that's all the Lord was requesting, but when Peter confidently answered three times in the affirmative, Jesus added to the conversation by saying,

(John 21:18 KJV) Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: . . .

Jesus tells Peter that, once, when he was young, he did what he wanted when he wanted. He had his own way in whatever he wanted to do and in going where he wanted to go.

But something happened to Peter a short time before this that was the breaking of his independent spirit. Peter had been slowly changed as he walked with Jesus until he came to the point of saying, "Lord, I would die for you."

(Mat 26:31 KJV) Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.
33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

Peter, always confident, says, "I will never be offended because of you, Jesus. I will never deny you. If you're going to die, I will even die with you."

Peter loved Jesus out of a confidence in himself to do so. He was willing to die for Jesus, but Jesus' knew Peter didn't have enough in himself to die for Him, and Jesus said to him, "When I am smitten, you will deny me Peter, and the sheep will be scattered because you don't really have it in you to love me the way I want you to love me."

And a few nights later, as Jesus was being mocked and judged and sentenced and prepared for crucifixion, Peter stood by a fire and did exactly what Jesus said he would do, and the exact opposite of what he himself said he would do.

(Mat 26:57 KJV) And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
58 But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.

Peter loved Jesus or he wouldn't have followed Him to the high priest's house. And while he waited and watched, he heard a question spoken to him:

(Mat 26:69 KJV) Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.
(Mat 26:70 KJV) But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.
(Mat 26:71 KJV) And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.
(Mat 26:72 KJV) And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
(Mat 26:73 KJV) And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
(Mat 26:74 KJV) Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.

First, Peter denied him.
The second time, he denied Jesus with an oath.
The third time, he cursed and he swore and said, "I know not the man."

And it was at that moment that the cock crowed. God spoke to Balaam through a donkey. God used a rooster to speak to Peter. The cock was crowing, but all Peter could hear was Jesus words:

(Mat 26:34 KJV) Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Peter loved Jesus to boldly proclaim, "I will die for you."
Peter loved Jesus enough to follow Him to the high priest's house.

Peter, Jesus said, always went where he wanted to go, and this was the enthusiasm of the young man in Peter. He wanted to go see what they were going to do to Jesus, and as he stood by the fire and heard the accusation that he was a follower of Jesus, he saw within himself a love for himself that was greater than a love for Jesus. The pressures of the situation came to bear upon the self-love in Peter's heart and the pressures for self-preservation caused the words to shoot forth from his heart in a mixture of cursing and swearing and oaths: "I don't know the man."

Jesus was being led away to die to fulfill His own words, and that situation confronted Peter with his inability to fulfill his own words: "Jesus, I will die with you."

As Peter stood by that fire, the three denials that came from his mouth broke the young man in him. The crowing of the cock broke the waywardness in him, the independent spirit in him. He had wanted to follow Jesus there, but suddenly he wished he wasn't there. His love for Jesus came face to face with his love for himself. In other smaller situations, Peter probably did what he wanted and went where he wanted with out any effect on his thinking. But in this situation, he had a love for Jesus that wouldn't allow him to just leave and go somewhere else. He couldn't just leave, but he couldn't stay, and his independent spirit broke, the sheep scattered, and Scripture says,

(Mat 26:75 KJV) And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

The verses in Luke are even more descriptive and powerful and convicting:

(Luke 22:60 KJV) And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

It was bad enough Peter was torn up about being there. It was bad enough that the cock was crowing while the denials were coming out of his mouth. It was bad enough the words of Jesus concerning his forthcoming denial were reigning in his ears and racing through his mind while trying to silence the thoughts and conflicts of his heart. It was all just about enough to break a man's spirit forever, but I believe what broke him was the reality behind these descriptive words recorded by Luke: "And the Lord turned...........and looked upon Peter."

At other times in his life, Peter went where he wanted to go, but this time the scriptures say,

"And he went out," not to just do what he wanted to do, but to weep bitterly at his lack, over his self-love, over his inability to be all that Jesus wanted him to be. He had walked with Jesus for 3-1/2 years. He knew what he should be like because he walked with God's standard for those
few short years, and he was finding himself falling far short of what he knew he should be.

And now Jesus was saying to Peter,

(John 21:18 KJV) Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

What is Jesus saying to Peter? He's saying, "Peter, when you were young and confident in yourself and independent, you denied me three times. When they said you were one of mine, you turned your back on them, you wouldn't face them and you denied me. But now Peter, now that I've broken you're independent self-will, you're saturation of self-love and self-preservation, you can face them next time. You won't turn you're back ever again, but when they come for you, you will face them and hold out your hands to be taken where you don't really want to go. As I was taken, so shall you be taken. As I prayed so shall you pray: "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet, nonetheless, thy will, not mine, be done." Remember I said also to you at that time, 'Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren' (Luke 22:32). You denied me, but your faith failed not because you allowed your faith in yourself to be broken also. And now, Peter, it is time to strengthen the brethren, to shepherd the sheep, to feed the lambs. I want you to feed them for me with what I have given you."

How often have we gone where we wanted to go and do what we wanted to do apart from His leading, but now find our hands being tied and being led to where we don't really want to go? Can we put ourselves in the place of Peter? How often have we joked about the guillotine, or the concentration camps? How often have we confidently said, "Lord, I will never be offended by you," yet we get angry because He doesn't immediately straighten out the messes we make? How often have we heard people speak heresy or lies or deceptions knowing we are a follower of His, yet denied Him by our silence? How often in our confidence have we said in the deteriorating situation in the world and the Church, "Lord, I will die with you"? Is it our self confidence and pride and arrogance speaking, thinking we are something radically spiritual, or, are such thoughts of being utterly faithful to Him to the end a result of knowing Him as our strength and our confidence? There is no room for uncertainty here. We must be sure we are not walking in the spirit of Peter, but rather than in the Spirit of Jesus because the time is drawing near for us to be taken to the house of the apostate high priest. It is our time to know the realities of Gethsemane. It is our time to experience the realities of Calvary. It is our time to be faithful to the Father. It is our time to hear His words to His Son, "Well done, good and faithful servant. This is my son in whom I am well pleased." When we hear those words, the Father will be saying that to us, but on a much larger reality scale, He will be saying it to His only begotten, His Son Jesus. That does not mean we are Him, but conformed to Him in His character, His love, His faithfulness, His perseverance.

(Isa 53:10 KJV) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Three times Peter had denied the Lord. Now, in John 21, three times Peter tells the Lord he loves him, but this time it is different. Because of what Peter had gone through within himself, he could now hear the words of Jesus to him:

(John 21:18 KJV) Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

Peter had followed Jesus to the high priests house after declaring he would follow the Lord anywhere. But there he denied Him, and how emotional it must have been for Peter to hear the last two words of these verses: "Follow me."

What we are going to pass through is the result of the travail of His soul, and HE.....IS....SATISFIED. We are His seed who have had our times of denials and tears and of sorrow and of brokenness and now it is time. It is time for us to walk as He walked, not in signs and wonders, but in faithfulness to Him whom He has formed in us. If you have not experienced what I have described, you are walking in the confidence of Peter. You are walking in the self-love of Peter. You are walking in the self-preservation of Peter, and the dangers of your denying Him are great. I believe it is a time when our faces should be on the floor, humbling ourselves before Him that we might settle the issue to really follow Him. The only way to follow Him now is to be like Him now.

Jesus is saying, "Do you love me? What is saying to us in those words? His words to us can be summed up in these verses:

(John 15:12 KJV) This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another. 18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.
22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.
25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.
26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
(John 16:1 KJV) These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.